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PloS one

Selection affects genes involved in replication during long-term evolution in experimental populations of the bacteriophage φX174.


PMID 23533679

Abstract

Observing organisms that evolve in response to strong selection over very short time scales allows the determination of the molecular mechanisms underlying adaptation. Although dissecting these molecular mechanisms is expensive and time-consuming, general patterns can be detected from repeated experiments, illuminating the biological processes involved in evolutionary adaptation. The bacteriophage φX174 was grown for 50 days in replicate chemostats under two culture conditions: Escherichia coli C as host growing at 37°C and Salmonella typhimurium as host growing at 43.5°C. After 50 days, greater than 20 substitutions per chemostat had risen to detectable levels. Of the 97 substitutions, four occurred in all four chemostats, five arose in both culture conditions, eight arose in only the high temperature S. typhimurium chemostats, and seven arose only in the E. coli chemostats. The remaining substitutions were detected only in a single chemostat, however, almost half of these have been seen in other similar experiments. Our findings support previous studies that host recognition and capsid stability are two biological processes that are modified during adaptation to novel hosts and high temperature. Based upon the substitutions shared across both environments, it is apparent that genome replication and packaging are also affected during adaptation to the chemostat environment, rather than to temperature or host per se. This environment is characterized by a large number of phage and very few hosts, leading to competition among phage within the host. We conclude from these results that adaptation to a high density environment selects for changes in genome replication at both protein and DNA sequence levels.

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